Sun care advice from my two grandmothers

As I look forward to my last weekend at the beach this coming weekend, I cannot but help to think about my two grandmothers, one from an Italian farming family, the other from a Swiss-German pastor family. They did not agree on many things, but they did agree on one thing: a suntan is inelegant, and a sunburn is downright offensive. Between them and my dermatologist father, with whom I have never been in so much trouble as when I sunburn my skin, I like to think I have perfected the idea of practicing “safe sun.” While this is something to think about daily, including in the dead of winter and on rainy days, it is particularly important during vacation season. If you are heading to the beach, the pool, on a boat, for one last weekend of summer, keep this in mind:

  1. The safest way to be in the sun is not to be in the sun. In particular in between the hours of 11 and 3 pm, stay in the shade. You will still get some color, I promise. If you hate the shade, consider wearing a hat, to shade your face…
  2. Use sunscreen! Even if you are planning to be in the shade all day, sunscreen is key. A body oil with SPF 2 does not count as sunscreen… UVA and UVBs are both harmful to the skin, so make sure your sunscreen says “broad-spectrum” (the SPF value only refers to protection from UVB). Keep in mind that SPF 30, which my father recommends for “beach vacation days” will protect you from 97% of UVB. A higher SPF will increase the protection only by one percentage point: SPF 50 will increase it to 98, and SPF 75 to 99%.
  3. Apply sunscreen liberally. Don’t think of it as applying your moisturizer or foundation – be generous, err on too much rather than not enough. The general rule of thumb is a shot-glass worth of product for an “average-sized” body.
  4. Re-apply after every time you get in the water. There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen; the FDA does recognize the term “water-resistant,” so look for that word when making your purchase, and reapply.
  5. Purchase new sunscreen annually, at the very least. While you may not need a new bathing suit before every summer vacation, be vigilant about the expiration dates on sunscreens. The formulations are delicate, and do break down – an expired sunscreen will not provide the protection claimed on the bottle.
  6. Remember the ears, back of the neck, and top of the feet (where I have gotten some of my worse sunburns). Ideally, apply your sunscreen before you put on your bathing suit, to avoid getting a burn right around where your bathing suit meets your skin.

There are lots of great sunscreens out there, I tend to find a favorite one every summer. This summer, my go-to has been by LaRoche Posay XL 50+ Sunscreen Oil, which is super easy to apply, works on face and body, and has a delightful aroma. And remember, no sunscreen is 100%. This means using an antioxidant product is key, both layered under your sunscreen and as a post-sun product, so that you instantly repair any free radical damage caused. Once again, there are many great antioxidant products on the market, my current favorite being the newest baby in the Alchimie Forever family, our Daily Defense Cream SPF23. As a first layer of protection, it is packed with antioxidants including blueberries, vitamins C and E, and edelweiss extract, and also has some chemical filters to help fight UVAs and UVBs.

Lastly, remember, you earn the skin you’re in! Protect it, practice “safe sun,” and your skin will thank you.

Warm weather skin care tips

While the first official day of summer is still almost two months away, as I sit in my hotel room in Miami (taking a quick break from the amazing Tuff Love Aveda / Neill hair show taking place this week-end) and watch the people lying out by the pool, the topic of summer skin care comes to mind.

My mother always told me that the change of seasons was the perfect excuse to do a deep cleaning of my house, more specifically of my closets. My father, on the other hand, always told me the change of seasons was the perfect time to take another look at my skin care products and skin care routine and adapt it accordingly.

How do late spring and summer affect our skin? Of course, sunburns come to mind. Sweating, heat rashes, and clogged pores are also typical concerns of warm weather skin care. Sunshine and higher temperatures also mean dresses, shorts, sleeveless tops, open toed shoes and flip flops…. Here is how I deal with warm weather skin:

  1. I switch to a gel-based cleanser. My skin type is pretty normal, and as is typical, I am dryer during the winter months and oilier during the warmer months. To get rid of all traces of sweat and to avoid clogged pores, I love a “squeaky clean” feel, and our Excimer purifying gel cleanser is perfect for that.
  2. I take cooler showers. Really, hot water, while delightful and relaxing, is not great for the skin, in any season. In warmer months, I find it easier to enjoy slightly cooler water, which is great to tighten pores, stimulate circulation (my Mom swears it is her daily cold showers that have given her her cellulite-free legs…), and give my hair some added shine.
  3. I make sure to exfoliate regularly, both face and body. I find that regular (aka twice weekly) exfoliation helps to keep my blackheads under control, and actually ensure a longer, more even sun-kissed look. While I don’t use self-tanner, exfoliation is indeed crucial prior to applying tanning lotion, to ensure it goes on smoothly and avoid streaks.
  4. I switch to a lighter moisturizer. Whether I am in DC or in New Orleans, there is plenty of moisture in the air starting April. While humidity can be awful for hair, it truly is wonderful for skin. Skin will absorb some of the moisture in the air, and as such, most skin types can benefit from a lighter moisturizer during the warmer months. Our Yttrium protective morning cream is particularly ideal and leaves a very matte finish on the skin.
  5. Sunscreen is a must. Indeed, while sunscreen is a must every day, it is a MUST when out by the beach, the pool, or the river. My father always recommended SPF 50+ on the face and body, and until we develop our own sunscreen, his favorite is LaRoche Posay’s Anthelios. He also taught me to avoid the sun between 11 am and 3 pm, and to be particularly careful when in the water, as sun gets reflected and is then twice a dangerous.
  6. Don’t forget your lips – they too are prone to sunburn. Whatever sunscreen you apply on the face, don’t avoid your lips or lip contours. And make sure you use a lip balm that contains an SPF.
  7. Don’t forget your eyes – sunglasses will help protect your eyes from the sun, and will help prevent squinting, which leads to wrinkles.
  8. Shorter dresses and arm-bearing tops mean that I am particularly conscious of my body. Our Alexandrite firming gel for neck and bust and our Q-switch optimizing body contour gel take care of my upper and lower body respectively, preventing sagging and minimizing cellulite. Of course, a couple extra sessions of Barre3 will help more than any product…
  9. For many, summer means more frequent shaving. If you experience post-shaving irritation or ingrown hairs, remember to shave only after you have been in the shower for a few minutes (your hairs will be softer), to change your blade often, to exfoliate, and to shave with a cream-based product (shaving cream or hair conditioner work best).
  10. Don’t forget your feet – for me, open-toed shoes mean more frequent pedicures, but also dryer feet and the propensity to cracked heels. I use our 532nm antioxidant relief for hands and feet religiously every evening.
  11. Last but not least, hydrate from the inside out. With warmer weather comes more sweating, which means it is doubly important to drink those recommended 8 glasses of water per day. Emergen-C in my water helps it go down better…

Finally, my father always reminded me not only of what to do, but also of what not to do during the summer. Avoid photo-sensitizing products such as retinols (or use them less frequently), avoid laser treatments on tanned skin, and avoid stronger peels on tanned skin.

Happy bathing suit season!